Archbishop Raymond Burke has criticized a Catholic basketball coach at the Catholic University of St. Louis (SLU) for declaring himself pro-choice and in favor of embryonic stem cell research, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Coach Rick Majerus was at a Hillary Clinton rally on Saturday to show his support of her candidacy. The basketball coach looked into the television camera and said “I am pro-choice, personally.”
At the rally he also told KMOV-TV he was in favor of destructive research on human embryos.
Archbishop of St. Louis Raymond Burke, speaking to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper before the March for Life in Washington, D.C. strongly criticized the coach’s statements.
"It's not possible to be a Catholic and hold those positions," Burke said. "When you take a position in a Catholic university, you don't have to embrace everything the Catholic Church teaches. But you can't make statements which call into question the identity and mission of the Catholic Church."
Archbishop Burke said the coach should be disciplined, saying, "I'm confident [the university] will deal with the question of a public representative making declarations that are inconsistent with the Catholic faith," Burke said. "When you take a position in a Catholic university, you don't have to embrace everything the Catholic Church teaches. But you can't make statements which call into question that identity and mission of the Catholic Church."
The archbishop was concerned the coach’s statements would cause scandal, defined in the Catholic catechism as "an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil."
Some St. Louis University faculty members were not happy with the archbishop’s remarks.
"If SLU wants to have a policy of, 'you have to be Catholic and believe the Catholic way,' SLU wouldn't exist," Laura Willingham, research assistant in SLU's School of Medicine, said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Should [Majerus] have said it publicly? There's freedom of speech."
Jeff Fowler, a spokesman for the university, emphasized the coach was speaking in a private capacity.
"Rick's comments were his own personal view," he said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "They were made at an event he did not attend as a university representative. It was his own personal visit to the rally."
Archbishop Burke has no direct control over St. Louis University. The Jesuit-founded university itself is nominally Catholic, but a 2007 Supreme Court decision ruled that the school “is not controlled by a religious creed,” making the school’s new arena eligible for $80 million in public funding. In the Supreme Court brief, the school’s lawyers said the university is not controlled or owned by the Society of Jesus and does not require employees or students "to aspire to Jesuit ideals, to be Catholic or to otherwise have any specific religious affiliation."
The lawyer’s brief also citied the 1998 sale of St. Louis University Hospital to Tenet Healthcare, which the school did "despite the strong and well-publicized objections of the Archbishop of St. Louis."
Less than 35 of the 1,275 St. Louis University faculty and staff are Jesuits, and fewer than half of the students are Catholic.